Post-panel interview with Mimi Hills, Software Localization Director @ VMWare
When and how did you start being involved in localization and internationalization initiatives? Was it your planned career move or did it happen naturally?
I would say that my career evolved towards localization. This evolution was triggered at Sun Microsystems when I worked on internationalization as Engineering Program Manager with the Java technology team. I learned about various aspects of localization and internalization and gained an understanding of localization processes. At that time I realized how fascinating this area is and how important it is in software development and for the users of this software. Since then I think of myself as an advocate for non-English-speaking users.
One of your multiple achievements in your career was the implementation and adoption of automated localization tools and processes. How did you approach this and how did you convince your colleagues to switch? What were the challenges you faced and how did you meet them?
Any attempt for major change represents considerable challenge so it is crucial to think through the approach and strategy before taking action. In the case of adopting a new translation management platform, we involved all parties from the very beginning in discussions about new tools and processes, and we defined the criteria for the decision in advance. This helps a lot to create common objectives and shared ownership of the change. People then feel more engaged and the defensive reaction often turns into a collaborative attitude—suddenly change is not that frightening anymore.
Also, to increase the importance and necessity of the business case I tried to find people within the organization that were aligned with me on this idea. It always helps if you can have people to support your project.
When it came to the discussions, we took into consideration requirements from all parties, established a priority list, and weighted them. Thanks to this planned decision-making process, there was much less room to resist the idea.
Despite of all these steps, I still faced resistance from a group that preferred our older home-grown tools. In this instance I had to prove that our organization had outgrown the old tools and we needed enterprise software to support our needs.
This is just one of the examples where I needed to negotiate. I would like to stress here that negotiation skills are extremely important as a leader, especially in our business, so if you feel you are not very strong at it, start working on it today. There are many books available that talk about change management or negotiation. Just to name a few that have helped me:
“Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions,” by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber
“Who Moved my Cheese,” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard
“Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard,” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
“Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, and “Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations,” by William Ury
You are an expert in globalization, internalization and localization of software, so given this vast experience and expertise, what is more important - linguistic or software engineering background? What skills and competences are necessary to succeed in software localization and internationalization?
The best is a combination of both linguistic knowledge and a good understanding of software processes. However don’t give up if you don’t have a degree in software engineering. You can develop a lot of skills yourself on the job. I also took courses on programming to learn how it works. It is important to be able to talk to developers and engineers in their language and understand what they do so that you can easily blend your processes into their workflows.
In my opinion, we need more women in technology; women often are trained to develop great interpersonal skills. There are plenty of career opportunities for us in tech companies and we should not be afraid to seize them.
I believe you have been already involved in helping women to advance in their tech careers as a mentor in the TechWomen organization. Could you tell me a bit more about it? What are the goals of this organization and what was your experience as a mentor?
TechWomen is a program of the U.S. State Department. It brings technical women from the Middle East and Africa to Silicon Valley for a month to work in companies and organizations. Acting as a mentor for other women from emerging countries is a very enriching experience. There are two types of mentorship, professional and cultural. I strongly recommend checking their website (techwomen.org) where all details are outlined. Many members of Women in Localization have been involved in this program; it’s a great fit for women interested in other cultures, and we hope to see even more engagement this year. We will be sharing more details on how to contribute in coming months, so we certainly welcome you to follow our blog for more insights.
Do you have any recommendations that you would like to share with W.L. to help them succeed in the challenging world of localization?
I would like to encourage all women to be confident and believe in their own strengths, especially when you look for a new job. Recent research shows that women tend to think they need to meet 100% of the job requirements upfront before even applying for a position. Men on the other hand will take a chance and apply even if they don’t meet all the requirements. I would like to see women dare to leave their comfort zone and try new things. After all, it is not only about the requirements; often the right attitude and a good fit to the team or culture are as important as an ideal CV. Employers look for employees with the potential to learn, grow, and contribute in many ways, so meeting all requirements becomes a secondary factor.
It is essential as well that women are proactive and constantly seek new opportunities within their current position and not limit themselves to assigned tasks but look around for new challenges. It’s a good way to gain experience and show your potential.
What is more, you should not expect that your career will always go up the ladder. Sometimes it is very beneficial to go sideways to broaden your horizons and get more breadth. The knowledge and skills you gather while exploring the side paths will certainly help you later to assume new positions where wide perspective will make you a better leader.
Martyna Pakula, Account Director at JONCKERS, guides organizations to unlock their potential in the international marketspace and succeed in the global arena. Martyna’s passion for languages and travel made her depart from her homeland Poland and head towards Spain to continue her studies, then move to Belgium to complete her education and embark on localization adventure. It was in Belgium where her career reached cruising speed, however next stop was approaching inevitably. Martyna arrived to San Francisco in 2013 to make her American Dream come true.